Poole Park hardly began life in a blaze of glory but it soon became the popular leisure place that it remains to this day.

The fiasco that was its official opening is well documented. Catastrophes rained down as illness and severe storms combined to ruin the much anticipated and carefully planned event.

Street decorations and the park’s marquee were wrecked and the royal opening went ahead on January 18 1890 by Edward, Prince of Wales – pretty much in secret.

Even last minute plans to hold it on the railway station platform went wrong. Railway police objected on safety grounds and the ceremony had to be held in the cramped little booking office where speeches were not even read, just handed over.

It was an inauspicious opening to the 90-acre park that was created following a design competition at an estimated cost of £7,630.

A fascinating new book by Geoffrey Budworth reveals the nearly 120-year history of what became the People’s Park, “one of the most picturesque pleasure grounds to be found anywhere in England”.

It had main gates guarded by lodges, roads and pathways, a cricket ground, cycle track and tennis lawns, sluice-gates controlling the saltwater lake, smaller freshwater lake and duckpond. Sound familiar?

The book takes the form of an A-Z glossary starting with the aviary, which began before the First World War, and ending with the zoo, which operated from June 1963 until it fell out of favour in February 1994. At one time it boasted a Himalayan black bear.

Bursting with information, the book includes all you could possibly want to know about the park, from royal visits to the wartime German bomb that demolished the bridge across the neck of the freshwater lake and killed two ducks.

Much loved features mingle with recent innovations from the park’s four old, red telephone boxes to the newly created islands in the saltwater lake and its varied wildlife.

Devastating storms which felled trees to a Russian canon from Sebastopol, the 1930s swimming pool, cars in the lake to the many and varied entertainments are all catalogued with the help of many photos, some from the Daily Echo’s archives.

And the informative book includes a guided walk of the park’s highlights in the company of the author, a former Metropolitan Police inspector and college lecturer, who has now penned 20 tomes.

Poole Park may have had a rocky start but there is no doubting the modern day popularity of this much-loved sanctuary in the centre of town.

Poole Park, The People’s Park by Geoffrey Budworth is published by The History Press at £12.99 and as well as all good book shops is available from the Friends of Poole Park’s information centre.